Sharkey gets Carroll off to a quick start

NORTHAMPTON — As with any lengthy, single-elimination sports endeavor, Archbishop Carroll had no idea Saturday where, how or when its PIAA Class AAA boys basketball effort would end.

The Patriots were certain, though, of how it should start.

“We had to come out,’ Josh Sharkey said, “with energy.’

So, Sharkey made sure Carroll did, establishing the beat and the theme of an 83-49 victory over Octorara with nine first-quarter points, including an old-fashioned three-pointer with less than a second left.

Sufficiently energized, the Patriots spent the rest of the early evening running, dunking and defending, preparing themselves for a second-round match Tuesday against Steel-High.

As for Octorara, it ended its season with a 25-3 record that, when it was 25-2, had little trouble jolting Carroll to attention.

“With a record like that, you are a good basketball team,’ Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk said. “It doesn’t matter what league or where you play or anything. You’re beating teams. You know how to win. You know how to be successful.

“I saw them in person and they looked fantastic against Glen Mills. They are a very good offensive basketball team with balance and guys who can score the basketball. And it worried me coming in. That’s a good basketball team.’

Sharkey, the 5-10 junior, limited that fear early, patiently guiding the Carroll offense, regularly mixing in crisp, accurate passes. The Braves’ defense thus taxed around the edges, inside opportunities arose, most of which Derrick Jones was pleased to utilize. Jones scored a game-high 26 and was particularly active in the third quarter as the Patriots opened a 60-39 lead before improving to 20-6.

“We knew they were hot,’ Jones said. “And I knew a couple of their guys. But we knew we just had to go out and play our game. And our game is what got us all of our wins. We just had to go out and do our thing.’

That was enough Saturday, in the neutral-site game at Council Rock South. But as the tournament tightens, the usual truth will apply: Strong point guard play will be of high value. And Saturday, Carroll had plenty.

“Josh is a great player,’ Jones said. “It’s an honor playing with him, and Dave (Beatty), Ryan (Daly), all of them; they are all good in their own ways. But Josh came a long way from last year. And this year, he is doing great at the point.’

Sharkey already has a Division I scholarship offer from Samford, according to Romanczuk, who expects more to follow. If recent activity was an indication, Sharkey intends to improve. That’s why he spent extra time after practice last week working on his shooting, a work ethic that yielded benefits in Tournament Round 1.

“Josh is fantastic,’ Romanczuk said. “When he is under control and playing like he played tonight and has the balance of setting the table and getting our guys shots, he makes the game easier for other people. And that’s fun.

“Good guard play at any level, whether it is high school, college or even in the NBA, takes you far. And Josh has done that all year. He is definitely a big key to our success. And he was tonight.’

Tarojae Brake paced Octorara with 14 points, and Levi Worthington chipped in with 11. Daly supplied 13 for Carroll, which is four victories from a state championship.

“There are a lot of things to think about,’ Romanczuk said. “But our guys just went out and played tonight. And they enjoyed themselves out there.’

And because they did that early, it was that much easier for them to do late.

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With Penn about to dismiss head coach Jerome Allen, there was a buzz in the gym Saturday that Romanczuk could be among the logical candidates to take over the job.

A former Quaker, Romanczuk was quick two years ago to dismiss rumors that he would join the staff of brother-in-law Chris Collins at Northwestern. Saturday, the Allen news caught him a touch by surprise, but he said, “I am a high school coach.’

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